by Georgie Wetton
When we hear wine and game in the same sentence we immediately think of Burgundy, Rhone or mature Bordeaux, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, by just sticking to the classics you could be missing out on some beautifully elegant pairings which create a less intense dining experience for those with more delicate palates. And so, whilst observing tradition, I have nominated some delicious alternatives to accompany your favourite game dish this autumn.
Baroness Nadine from the Rupert & Rothschild estate in South Africa’s Western Cape, is a fine example of a New World wine with Old World elegance and refinement. Displaying good acidity, subtle oaky, buttery aromas and some fresh citrus notes, this rich Chardonnay pairs beautifully with roast pheasant dishes plated with a light gravy.
Baron Edmond de Rothschild and Dr Anthon Rupert formed a partnership in 1997, and their surviving families still manage the estate today. Taking the Rupert family’s knowledge of the Western Cape and the Rothschild knowledge of French grape varieties, they produce three beautiful wines, two red Bordeaux blends and one white wine.
Baroness Nadine is made with 100 per cent Chardonnay grapes whose vines are on average 12 years old. The grapes are all hand-picked and whole-bunch pressed using only the free-run juice. The juice is part fermented in concrete tanks, part stainless steel and part 300L French oak barrels. It is then matured for 10 months in the French oak barrels, a third of which are new.
The resulting wine is adorned with lively peach blossom, lemon, apple, and mango aromas with nuances of lightly toasted macadamia nuts, all of which carry over onto the palate which is round and soft but balanced by a zippy, fresh acidity. Baroness Nadine can age easily for 4–5 years allowing baked apple aromas to develop which would further enhance the flavours of the meat.
On the more classic side, this second nomination from Chateu l’Évangile, Lafite’s estate in Pomerol is a shoe in for game dishes. Ninety-three per cent Merlot with a dash of Cabernet Franc which brings finesse and structure, this soft, juicy wine has all the body and flavour games is calling for with subtle tannins that won’t take anything away from the meat.
Through a geological mystery, the southeast Pomerol plateau features a long line of surface gravel which is shared by three vineyards making the most of this rare soil, including L’Évangile. The property is bordered by Chateau Petrus to the north and is separated from Cheval Blanc in Saint-Emilion to the south by nothing more than a secondary road.
Blason de L’Évangile is selected from the same vats that are used to make the Grand Vin. It has characteristics similar to the Grand Vin, but less potential for ageing as it is matured for a shorter period of time and therefore should be drunk younger than its more robust counterpart.
This is one of my all-time favourite wines. Consistent across vintages, it is a wine to be enjoyed with a hearty autumnal game dish. 2014 was a particularly great vintage for Évangile, here the nose is intense with toasted and vanilla-scented notes, accompanied by black stone fruits and cassis. The palate is dense, with silky, ripe tannins, and the finish is long with gamey notes and a hint of bittersweet dark chocolate. Definitely open this ahead of time if you can, and decant two hours before drinking to allow this beautiful wine to open up fully.
Often overlooked when pairing wine with game are Pinot Noirs. Indeed, great quality offerings from the USA and New Zealand are a joy to match with game, especially if serving it with a fruity jus.
Here we have Rimapere Pinot Noir from Rapaura in Marlborough, New Zealand. Rimapere enjoys an incredible terroir. The river that ran across it one hundred years ago created the alluvial soil made up of large river pebbles lying flush with the clayey ground that is fertile and well-draining. The site comprised of 26 hectares, 22 hectares of which contain Sauvignon Blanc vines and just 4 hectares of pinot noir. This parcel of pinot yields a matter of hundreds of cases rather than thousands.
The wonderful aromas of red cherry and cracked black pepper, wood smoke, earthy spice and fresh cranberry are all hedonistic partners to any game dish. The palate has the freshness of youth and though it will cellar for up to five years and continue to evolve, it is definitely ready to drink now. Elegant, well balanced with great concentration of fruit, the nine months in French oak barriques have given this wine a sweet spice note and a lovely structure which persists towards an ethereal-like finish.